The Grand Tour

July – August 1956, Part 2

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Note: These accounts are from my memory, with some help from my Grandmother’s notes she kept in a small tablet. My memory and her notes conflict slightly, and it is probably obvious which account is the most reliable.

Updates for Part 1: The 1956 Calgary Stampede ran from Monday, July 9 through Saturday 14th. According to my Grandmother’s note, first-day attendance was 97,000, and the cabin and room in the home out of Canmore, where we stayed the night before attending the Stampede on July 12, cost six dollars.


We did stay the night in Canada following our visit to the Stampede in Cochrane, out of Calgary. That cabin cost eighteen dollars. My memory says that we crossed into North Dakota, but my Grandmother’s notes say we stayed in Chester, Montana. There was a terrible electric storm with rain in sheets and hail. I remember the storm, and the owner’s wife was there alone. Her husband was out of town. She felt the motel sign should be turned off, but she was afraid to do it. Robert went down and turned the sign off for her. We tagged along to watch the danger.

The hotel with the rope fire escape and the soda water was in Williston, North Dakota. Most of eastern Montana and North Dakota was worthless country, in my opinion, but Grandma’s notes say good farming country.

From Williston, we traveled to Thief River Falls, where we rented a cabin for seven dollars. We spent most of the following day visiting Robert’s cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Webster, somewhere in northern Minnesota. That visit was difficult. I couldn’t spend any time outside because the mosquitos would eat someone alive. It wasn’t much better in the house.

After that visit with the cousins, we stayed in a cabin by a lake. My main memory was of a gallon jar full of leeches on the drugstore counter.

“What are these things in this jar?” I asked the clerk.

“Those are leeches,” the clerk said. “We use them for sucking the blood out of bruises and things like that.”

My only knowledge about leeches came from Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen. 

“My bruises heal just fine without any blood-sucking,” I said. There was no way they would ever put one of those things on me.

From Minnesota, we drove to the Devil’s Lake Region of Wisconsin. We had to go late into the night before finding any vacant cabins, and these were in Wisconsin Dells. We had to take two cabins at six dollars each and with no kitchen. I remember lunch in a park in Wisconsin Rapids. After lunch, we headed for Chicago.

Coming into Chicago, at one of the first stop lights, a couple of young African American guys pulled up alongside us in an old Model A Ford. They laughed and gunned the motor. Robert was quick to respond, and when the light turned green, we were off like a shot.

The Model A caught us at the next light, and everyone laughed. This went on for three or four lights.

“Robert, you stop this,” Lila said. “You are going to get those boys in trouble.”

That was probably my first exposure to any thought that those boys would be in any more trouble than Robert. Coming from southwest Oregon, my exposure to anything racial was meniscal. But Robert gave the guys a salute and a laugh, and they took off ahead of us.

We drove past the chapel where Uncle Ernie and Linnea were married. It was a small chapel under a new overpass, not far from Lake Michigan. We had a double cabin on the far side of Chicago for $9.00 but no kitchen.

After Chicago, we headed east. Our distention was Ithaca, NY, where my oldest cousin and his young family lived. Ken Haughton was in a Ph.D. program at Cornell.

Going through Ohio, Phillip seemed to sleep in the back seat a lot. The countryside was flat and unremarkable to us Oregon boys, and he woke up when we stopped for gas.

“Ohio is all city,” Phillip said. 

Lilia corrected him, saying he slept through the farm country.

We drove along Lake Erie, staying in Wickliffe, Ohio, on the east side of Cleveland. The following morning we were up early and visited Niagara Falls. 

I wanted to take a boat ride out under the falls, but I had to settle for scrambling on the rocks near the bottom of the falls. The heavy mist created by the falls. I was impressed with the grandeur of the falls.

After leaving the Falls, we arrived at Ken’s at about 7:00 pm. They were living in an apartment complex, which we found quickly, but finding their apartment took a little luck. We spotted their oldest son, Kelly, riding his peddle car on a sidewalk in the complex. Phillip and I were dispatched to catch him.

“Kelly, we are your cousins from Oregon,” I said. “Take us to your house.”

Kelly was about four, and I had never seen him before, but he took us home. We spent a couple of days in Ithaca, staying in a motel not far from Ken’s. The motel cabins were fourteen dollars a day, a significant increase from the usual six dollars in the West. We had a couple of big electric storms with heavy rain there.

From Ithaca, we headed to New York City. We stayed one night in Dover, NY, and then entered NYC relatively early in the day. We had rooms in the Statler Hilton Hotel. My memory says we were on the thirtieth floor, but looking online now, I think the hotel only had fifteen floors.

There was no air conditioning, and I found that if you leaned out the window, and spit, the spit would fall for six or eight floors before being sucked into an open window below. That was entertaining for a time.

We took a bus tour of the city. My Grandmother’s notes say we “took a tour trip around the town. Saw lots of landmarks, such as The Little Church around the corner, then across to the Statue of Liberty. Then back to the UN building and the Rockefeller building. We had our supper in this place.”

My best memories of the tour were the whole plucked chickens hanging in the window of a meat shop, heads, feet, and all. A bum passed out on a doorstep with a bottle of whiskey tucked under his belly and climbing up to the head of the Statue of Liberty.

The next day, we went up to the top of the Empire State Building for twelve dollars and fifty-seven cents plus tax. It took three different elevators to get up the hundred and ten floors, and it was quite a view.

After the Empire State Building, we headed south out of town and stayed in New Castle, Delaware. When we stopped for gas in Delaware, there was quite a discussion when Grandma and Lila returned to the car after using the lady’s room. They had encountered a Bidet in the lady’s room. A bidet was difficult to figure out for a couple of ladies, not far removed from the outhouse days. Robert said it must be to just stand over a pee. I am sure they didn’t have it figured out then.

From Delaware, we continued south, turning west at the corner of Georgia. That will be covered in Part 3.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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